Moulson a bright light during the Buffalo Sabres dark days

Ryan Kennedy
Matt Mouslon (Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

That the Buffalo Sabres have struggled this year is no secret. But when the rebuild began in earnest with the trading of Thomas Vanek to the New York Islanders, at least since-fired GM Darcy Regier got a talented player in return.

Matt Moulson was that veteran scorer and his production hasn’t slowed since heading up the interstate, but it’s more than just scoring punch that makes Moulson an asset. He also comes with historical knowledge that a young team can grow together, since he saw it first-hand with the Islanders.

“I try to share some experiences when I can,” Moulson said. “Having done it before, you have to let guys know that they just need to keep working and learning and getting better. That’s the only way to improve the team if everyone’s learning and making sure the same mistakes made in the past aren’t made again in the future.”

When Ted Nolan took over behind the bench for the fired Ron Rolston and Pat LaFontaine set up camp in the front office, the Sabres sent teenagers Nikita Zadorov back to major junior and Rasmus Ristolainen to the American League. An attempt to demote a third teen, Mikhail Grigorenko, to the minors was nixed by the NHL because they believed his “conditioning assignment” had nothing to do with weight and everything to do with buying time.

So the Sabres are still green, but Moulson sees the upside.

“Obviously a lot of young guys are still learning,” he said. “It’s similar to the situation I had on the Island early on. We were rebuilding. It’s fun to be a part of this group and hopefully I can help.”

Getting traded never comes at a good time, but it was especially tricky for Moulson. His wife had just given birth to their second child (a boy, to go along with a young girl), so they stayed in Connecticut for the first month after the trade. On the bright side, Moulson’s parents, brother and sister all live in Mississauga, Ont., which is just an hour and a half from the U.S. border, so they were able to see his Sabres debut.

“It’s been an easy adjustment,” Moulson said. “The organization was very welcoming to me and it always makes it easier when your family is comfortable as well.”

This feature originally appeared in the World Junior Preview edition of The Hockey News magazine. Get in-depth features like this one, and much more, by subscribing now.